For crying out loud

Infant sleep gurus Ferber and Sears soften their stances.

Published November 15, 2005 5:04PM (EST)

It's a term tossed around on playgrounds, at Mommy & Me and anywhere else new parents mingle: "Ferberizing." The verb describes a technique outlined in Dr. Richard Ferber's 1985 sleep bible, "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems," which advocates letting infants cry for progressively longer intervals until they learn how to sleep through the night. Sleep training is one of those child-rearing subjects -- along with breast-feeding, co-sleeping, TV watching -- that really get parents into a snit. Some swear by Ferber and think his method promotes independence and allows parents to nab some much-needed sleep; others consider it neglectful.

Thankfully, according to an article in today's Wall Street Journal (the online edition is subscription only), the sleep debates are about to become a little less volatile. That's because Ferber, as well as attachment parenting guru Dr. William Sears -- who the Journal says has called sleep training "appropriate for training pets, not raising children" -- are both crawling towards the middle. Ferber, who has a revised edition of his book coming out in the spring, says that crying it out "was not meant to be the way to treat all sleep problems" and in his new book offers parents non-crying sleep solutions. And Sears is softening up on his strict attachment parenting edict that "parents respond to their children on demand, day or night." In his recently published book, "The Baby Sleep Book," Sears says that parents need their rest, too, and even goes so far as to say that a sleep-deprived mother may want to wean her baby of nighttime feedings.

Broadsheet can attest to the fact that, yes, parents do need their sleep. In fact, a sufficiently sleep-deprived Broadsheetress might argue that a child care expert who needed time to figure this out might not be someone parents should get their advice from in the first place.

But that wouldn't be in the spirit of this new collegiality.

By Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

MORE FROM Lori Leibovich

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